Nathaniel Baxter Musteen: Benton County Arkansas Roads

Nathaniel Baxter Musteen

Nathaniel Baxter Musteen with one of the draft horses used to pull grading equipment for Benton County roads.

Nathaniel, born Aug 7 1876, held a contract with Benton County, AR, to grade roads, and heavy equipment was drawn by teams of large draft animals. Dad once said Grandpa’s barn had room for 65 horses. If any cousins have different details about the number of horses, know more about the equipment, own photos, etc., please email me (rebecca-johnson@sbcglobal.net), or post details in the comments section below.

I know very little about the types of equipment, other than graders for the many dirt roads. And I’ve never seen a photo of a wide, multi-pronged grader…Dad talked about the horses, barn and equipment a few times as I grew up.

Grandpa was still using horses for several years after the last children, Dad and Jack, were born in September of 1929. Nathaniel stood well over six feet, so you can see in the photo above that his horses were sturdy work animals.

Rogers  Brick Streets

Rogers brick streets, photo from Wikipedia, with permission of Douglas Wertman

For years I believed he had paved the brick streets in downtown Rogers, but I later learned that Grandpa’s crews graded the roadbed very finely, and an outside contractor from another town brought his teams to place the bricks.

Debbie Musteen Phillips and Rebecca Musteen Johnson

Debbie and Becky on Grandma’s block

When Grandpa died from a heart attack at age 70 in 1946, he left the frontage of an entire commercial block on 2nd street to my grandmother. Their white stucco home was on the south end, next was a barber shop. Other businesses included a tire shop, a laundry and a grocery at the north end, managed by Jack and Rosemary Garner who attended the Church of Christ with Grandma.

My  cousin, Debbie Musteen Phillips, scanned the only photo I have of Grandma’s block view. The house and the small, white frame barber shop are south of where she’s standing behind me. Debbie reminded me recently that Grandma was always telling us to stand facing into the sunlight as she snapped photos…resulting sometimes in glaring squints instead of relaxed smiles!

If anyone has more photos of this block, please let me know. The buildings have recently been demolished to build a large, national chain gas station.

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Hooked on My Family History: Rebecca Musteen Johnson

I can tell you exactly when I became entranced with my family history.

One month before my 12th birthday, I was resting fretfully at St. John’s Hospital in Tulsa, OK after surgery to remove my right kidney (due to a birth defect, which had been undetected earlier). The actual procedure was far more fearful to Mother than me…I was greatly relieved to be done with weeks of irritating and painful tests.

My main problem was entertainment. I’d read ALL the classic Nancy Drew mysteries on the top shelf of our Candy Striper’s gray rolling trolley, and Mother had gone back to Northwest Arkansas to tend my three younger siblings.

Grandma Musteen Came and Shared My Family History

Dad’s 76-year-old Mama* arrived to sit with me and told me stories we had never enjoyed the solitude to share. While I dined on broth, weak tea and any flavor of Jell-O that my heart desired, she shared tales that were far more flavorful.

Jennie Brown Musteen

Jennie Brown Musteen with the 6th of her 12 grandchildren…me.

Her grandfather was a solid Ozark farmer with eight children. For his main livelihood, he tanned hides in an earthen pit, filled with tanning chemicals. Northwest Arkansas was just slightly south of the Mason-Dixon Line, so his pit was covered with branches and leaves to conceal it from armed bands of post-Civil War raiders from both sides.  

Food was precious. One story told of his youngest, Mary, crying for the warm bread her mother had just taken from the oven…after “Bushwhackers” rode into the yard and rudely stole it away.

Butterfield Overland Trail

Butterfield Overland Trail

To supplement his family income before the Civil War, John drove a Butterfield Stage from a point in MO to Fort Smith, AR on a regular route. Great-Great-Grandpa’s route went right through that upper corner of AR, which you can see in the official trail map. Grandma specifically mentioned that he stopped at the Elkhorn Tavern. I’ve searched the Butterfield records and found that it was an unofficial, but popular stop.  

Prior to the Civil War, the house was used for many purposes, although it was well-known locally as a stop for the Overland Stage. Although the Butterfield Stage passed by on the Telegraph Road, the Elkhorn Tavern was not an official stop on the Butterfield line. During this period, the Tavern was described as a place “of abundant good cheer”.

Wait! While Grandma was describing the tavern, I knew something about it. In my 5th-grade class, the silver-haired granddaughter of the tavern’s Civil War-era managers came to share her mother’s unforgettable, youthful memories from The Battle of Pea Ridge. The tavern was occupied as the field hospital by Army surgeons, who worked tirelessly to remove shattered limbs and save as many lives as possible.

Now, my region’s history, my country’s history, was also my family history! (Dad’s mamma was born in 1887 and would have been close in age to the kind woman who shared her mother’s Civil War memories with our class.)

It was Cox, who later renamed it Elkhorn Tavern. Under Cox’ management, the structure served as a trading post, an unofficial Butterfield Overland Mail stop, post office, voting place, eating establishment, church of the Benton County Baptist Society and inn. As the war moved near, Jesse Cox left the tavern to the care of his son and daughter-in-law Joseph and Lucinda Pratt Cox and went to Kansas.


The last time I visited Pea Ridge National Military Park, a stretch of bare-earth ruts from Telegraph Road were still visible near the tavern. I stood and thought of my great-great-grandfather driving his coach and team over those ruts.

By a quirk of fate, my only granddaughter now attends Butterfield Trail Elementary School in Fayetteville, AR. Even stranger, the first successful Butterfield stage run was finished on her birth date of September 19—148 years and six family generations before she was born.

The first Butterfield stage entered Forth Smith on Sunday, September 19, 1858, at 2:00 a.m. Its route took it over Fort Smith’s old Washington Street, which today is 2nd Street. Even at that hour, its arrival was greeted with music, cheering, and cannon fire, which continued until the coach left for California.

While it thrills me to know something of my family history, I wish I knew so much more! The last Musteen in my dad’s direct siblings is gone now. My cousins and I never sat down with her and captured her rich trove of memories. We intended to do it “next visit,” “when we get the chance.”

Time didn’t wait for us. If you’re interested in your family history, please grab any opportunity NOW to capture family stories…those treasured memories can live forever.

I’m very fortunate to have history for several generations on three of my grandparents. The main focus of this blog is my dad’s Mustain lineage. I begin with this history because our ancestor, Thomas Mustain, built a home that has stood for more than 250 years. I love that tangible reminder of my heritage. I have no idea why Thomas received a royal land grant, so that’s a subject for future research.

Any blood descendent of Thomas is eligible to join Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Click here for details about Thomas donating a firearm, and you can also find more information on all requirements at www.dar.org.

Avery and Jesse were both enlisted in the Revolutionary War, so their service records can be used, too.

According to Delores M. Mustaine’s book, The descendents of Thomas Mustain of Pittsylvania County, Virginia; Thomas’ daughter Molley’s father-in-law, Littleberry Patterson, was also a veteran of the Revolutionary War. So far, I’ve found this reference. The online photo archive of Delores’ book has page numbers in the upper right corner…details about Molley and the Patterson family begin in the middle of page 5.

Dad’s grandfather, Nathaniel Baxter Mustain, fought in the Civil War, waited for wages that didn’t come and endured a Union prison camp…more about that in a later post.

Please comment and share this blog with your family members. The details of our family histories are too precious to lose!

*Jennie Lee Brown married Nathaniel Baxter Musteen when she was 23. Only the oldest of Nate’s four surviving children, Walter, raised his own family. More about this in a later post. Four of Jennie and Nate’s seven children gave Jennie 12 grandchildren. Nate died in 1946, so we grandchildren have photos and a few minutes of video made by my Uncle Hubert in the handful of years before Grandpa’s death.  

Hubert: Martha Jane and Sarah Lee Musteen
Mary: Lisle Gene, Bennie Joe and Gail Lou Stevenson
Jack: Debbie, David and Margie Musteen
Joe: Rebecca Gail, Jennie Lynn, Michael Wayne and Barry Twan Musteen

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Jennie Brown Musteen: Gardening Memories

Grandma Jennie Brown Musteen always had a well-worn, slim paper copy of the Farmer’s Almanac at hand for in-person or telephone updates about phases of the moon or the best time to plant above-ground or root crops.

When I was very young, her garden was a large plot that had once been occupied by Grandpa Musteen’s horse barn. She thought it was helpful to the soil to burn off old growth, and I watched at least once. When my own dad, following her example, lit a fire to clear our own moderately large garden space on 4th street, concerned next-door neighbors called the Fire Department to stand on alert until Dad’s project was finished!

Seed Store, Rogers, ARI recall the excitement of going each year to buy seeds. Grandma would know exactly how much she wanted of corn, green beans, peas, squash, watermelon, and other staples. Her selections would be measured or weighed and bound in tiny brown bags, tied with twine. I’m searching for the name of the seed store, if anyone can give that information. I had copied the image above from Rogers, AR Museum online photo archive, and I might simply have failed to tag it correctly.  

Grandma Jennie’s Garden

I have never in my life tasted a more delicious cantaloupe than the warm, fragrant and perfectly-ripe melon that I remember being carried directly into her kitchen and cut into eighths. Grandma liked to sprinkle her cantaloupe with ground black pepper. That was OK with me as a taste test, but I really preferred mine with nothing added. To this day, I much prefer the wonderful taste of a sun-warmed, ripe tomato to any room temperature or chilled supermarket version. Standing in the garden, brushing it off and biting into it…there’s just no comparison.

She’d split tiny yellow squash in half length-wise, score and dot with butter and pepper before baking. I’ve never eaten squash prepared in any way I like better.

For family gatherings, when we cousins were young, watermelon would be cut in half length-wise, then into several slivers of about 2 inches at the rind. We’d all be given a slice and run around her yard, spitting seeds into the grass. You can imagine how sticky we were and in need of a wash cloth or water hose by the time we were finished!

Grandma’s green beans with bacon were a constant at meals. She cooked them until all water was gone and the beans were just short of being scorched on the bottom of the pan. We didn’t know anything about nutrition, so everyone just enjoyed the taste and no one worried.

I learned with her to make crisp bread-and-butter pickles and pickled beets. She’d probably canned everything at least once, including salmon on a trip to the Pacific Northwest to visit one of Grandpa’s older sons, Howard.

It’s been nearly 30 years since I’ve had a space to plant anything, but my sister gardens and cans every summer.

Question for my siblings and Musteen cousins: what memories do you have of Grandma in her garden or canning? Please leave a comment and share with your children.

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